CHAPTER 19.2

Approx. 5000 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

A Touch of Chaos:

The Colony that Wasn't There

 

written by  SJ

 

 

    Ever since they had lost communication with the colony on Tiberia, the star system’s Navigational Beacon had been offline, which was why Dion’s shuttle was carrying a new one. It was a 61.9 light year jump from Proxima Altair to Sol5 Tiberias. Sergeant Dakota rode with Dion’s team with plans to transfer to LaFong’s team once they met. Plus, just before LaFong had departed, Major Taliaferro had authorized Apothecary Dylan Ramos to ride along, just in case they found civilian casualties.
    The jump took 6.2 days, where they quickly spotted the system’s outer planet, a small iceball, which orbited the system’s G class yellow sun at 29.7 A.U.’s. The planet was not on the official system specifications, which, many decades earlier, they obtained from the colonists themselves, and at this point wondered if it was a rouge planet that had gotten trapped in orbit after the original specifications were obtained, or if the colonist had simply overlooked it.
    When Major Taliaferro was informed of their arrival, and about the extra planet, he told them that would be a good place for the Navigational Beacon. Since Dion’s shuttle had less personnel, their shuttle carried the Beacon and the Observation Probes...plus Sergeant Petrovsky had experience in setting up both.
    While Dion’s team set up the Navigational Beacon and put it in orbit around the iceball planet, which was estimated would take almost five hours, LaFong decided to proceed to Tiberia. On the way, she could look for Chaos warships, or simply scan for traces of the WARP, which she estimated would take close to four hours.
    ******
    The iceball planet was the eight planet in the solar system. Moving closer in, there were two gas giants, an asteroid belt, a barren rockball planet, then Tiberia, the third planet orbiting at 1.08 A.U.’s. The next two orbital positions were occupied by asteroid belts, first of many reasons why this star system was not tagged for colonization by Cartel 4.
    Tiberia was currently a pre-garden planet, with plenty of volcanic activity. The ocean, which made up about 90 percent of the planet’s surface had very little in the way of plankton-like organisms, which meant much less of the carbon dioxide produced by the volcanic activity was turned into oxygen.
    Normally, pre-garden planets had an abundance of oxygen, which allowed larger animals to develop. Tiberia had a adequate amount of flora and fauna, but, basically, nothing in the way of dinosaurs, or large animals of any type. And in a couple hundred years, as the oxygen began to dwindle and the carbon dioxide continued to increase, the planet would slowly become less habitable, another reason why it was not considered for colonization.
    However, still, a small independent colony of Terrans maintained their existence. It was guessed that approximately 5000 Terrans lived there. As Lana carefully took her time to scan the planet, she guessed it was a little more than that, all of them located on one part of the planet, a coastal area of about sixty kilometers long, stretching inland about twenty kilometers, where it reached an area that had once had a lot volcanic activity many years earlier, but was now completely stable and becoming very fertile.
    Along the coastal area, west to east, there were about ten small villages spread out, most near or on the coast; in the open areas of the rocky, volcanic, region, to the north, there were two more. So far, the colony matched the map she had of the area. The only difference was a pair of neighboring farms located approximately ten kilometers further north on the west side.
    After she had a full confirmation of the map, she got a call from Melinda saying they had finished the Navigational Beacon and were on their way to set up the two Observation Probes, which were to be located on the north and south poles of the rockball planet, the one that occupied orbital position 4.
    It was also at that time, Lana had to mention they had picked up a faint trace that a WARP vessel had been in orbit around the planet approximately twenty five days earlier...and that, so far, all her attempts at communicating with the planet’s surface had gone unanswered, something Major Taliaferro overheard and noted.
    ******
    Dion had made her way to the inner solar system by use of a short space jump. Once they were in orbit around the rockball planet, only one hour had past. Meanwhile, Lana had continued to call the planet...still with no answer.
    With time on her hands, Lana began a survey of the colony. There was a spaceport on the far eastern side with one of the larger villages nearby it, a place where trade ships came to load and unload, the only place available. The spaceport looked completely abandoned, like it hadn’t been used in almost a year, let alone in just a month. The village looked much the same. However, much to her surprised, she spotted no signs that a battle had taken place. Her first thought was that the colonist had simply surrendered to the Chaos ship, where it then landed and abducted all the people and left. But, even that didn’t seem right.
    As she examined the rest of the villages, they looked very much the same as the first one: abandoned, and not lived in for at least a year. Major Taliaferro had been watching the video monitors with her, occasionally making suggestions, but coming to the same conclusion she had. He was beginning to think it was about time to go down to the planet, landing at the spaceport.
    Then, he had an idea.
    He told Lana to put him on the communicator, so his voice could be heard calling the planet. “This is Major Taliaferro of the Cheyenne Ranger Space Marines. As of approximately one Galactic month ago, we have had no response from your colony. If anyone can hear me, please answer.”
    Silence...
    The Major thought, then decided to mention something Lana had said earlier, expounding that issue. “If there is anyone on the planet listening, please respond. For almost a month, trade ships have been trying to contact your colony. If you do not respond, those trade ships will find other places to trade their goods. Eventually, you will find it VERY difficult to regain their business. You risk losing their business permanently! We are not here to interfere, we only want to help--”
    After some brief static, the communication line came to life. “This is Mason Wayne.” He cleared his throat. “You have to understand our reservation about answering. We had to be sure. Twenty eight days ago we detected a strange spaceship. We had to take measures to protect ourselves.”
    “That spaceship is gone.” Major Taliaferro assured. “We have two Special Ops shuttles in your solar system and they have found no sign that ship is here any longer.”
    “That’s good to hear.” Mason spoke hesitantly. “If you wish to come down to the surface, I can give you a location to land.”
    Lana was just about to say she had locked onto the transmission and knew where it was, but the Major gave her a look to stay silent.
    He noted the location, a small, coastal village on the far east side, then spoke. “We have your location and can be down--”
    “No, we’re not there.” Mason sounded a little smug. “That’s just where our communications are linked to.”
    “Ah, I see. Very good.” The Major complemented cordially. “Did you still want us to land?”
    “Yes.” Mason’s voice sounded a little more honest, but then became evasive. “We're having a problem down here...”
    “What kind of problem? Can you explain it?”
    “Well...” Mason hesitated, then began whispering to someone else, then asked, this time like he really needed to know. “Is it possible that spaceship could’ve landed something, some objects, or soldiers, without actually bringing their spaceship down, or sending down shuttles?”
    By now, Mason, and whoever was down there with him, had the Major’s face onscreen; he gave them a serious look and answered, “yes...absolutely. It is very much possible. If you’ll tell us want kind of problems your having, we can use our scanners--”
    “No, no.” Mason was back to being evasive, like he was hiding something. “We need you to come down. I can’t explain it from here.” He gave them a location, which Lana quickly spotted and found, a grassy area in the center between a ring of tall, rocky, volcanic, hills, about one kilometer square. The landing spot was next to a large, sturdy, two-story, rustic, house.
    She showed it to the Major without speaking.
    The Major then spoke to the man and made sure it was the same place.
    Afterwards, Mason needed to add some additional information. “Don’t come down armed, at first, okay? Just yourself and one other. You understand, right...until we get to know you better. We’ll meet you at the door.”
    “Yes, I understand.” The Major agreed. “But, as long as you show us the same courtesy. No weapons--”
    “Oh, no. We don’t have any weapons. And there’s only three of us.” Mason smiled. “We’ll meet you at the door, okay.” He signed off.
    Major Taliaferro sighed then looked at Lana. He thought he should explain why he got a response and she didn’t. “Lana, these small, independent, colonies can be a little old fashion.”
    She looked at him curiously.
    “I think they wanted to be contacted by a man.”
    Lana was a little surprised. Terran society just didn’t work that way anymore. In fact, women were leaders in many facets of society. Most people, in many cases, expected it. She mentioned a solution. “Did you want me to pretend someone else was in command of my team? And I think they’re expecting YOU to come down, right?”
    The Major shook his head. “No. If they need to speak to me, just put me on your com video. I think they’ve got some kind of serious problem down there. And if they have a choice between you being the team leader, and not being helped at all...they’re going to change their tune quick.” He pondered. “This guy sounds scared. I just don’t know if he’s more scared of us, or the problem he’s having.”
    ******
    Corporal Sammy Burns piloted the shuttle down to the surface, landing with his usual thump and bump, then, “my bad.”
    Lana had already chosen her team: herself and Gannon.
    As they exited the shuttle, they found the weather hot, almost 100 degrees. The house had an overhand giving them shade as they were met at the door.
    Inside, the house was air-conditioned. Mason, a medium-sized man introduced himself, then pointed to a tall, heavily-built, woman next to him, who he called Dora.
    When Mason continued to stare at Lana, she held up her com phone and explained firmly. “Major Taliaferro is not here. He was here virtually only. If you want to speak with him, I can get him online. Otherwise, I’m the one in charge of the team that will be helping you. My name is Officer LaFong, you can call me Lana.” She pointed at Gannon. “This is Sergeant Shannon. You can call him, Gannon.”
    The big Marine nodded, cordially.
    “Okay.” Mason agreed. “Come with me.”
    Lana and Gannon followed the man and woman into another room, through a door off to their left. Inside, the room was empty and the shades on the windows were drawn. There were two stools sitting next to each other. Mason told them to have a seat.
    As Gannon sat down on the stool nearest the door, Lana remained standing next to her stool looking around suspiciously.
    Facing both Marines, Mason slowly grinned. “Okay. All I need is to--ask you a few questions!”
    He had spoken the last five words louder than the rest. And as soon as he did, a third man came in with a chrome-steel shotgun, holding it ready. Dora unfolded her arms and stood looking threatening.
    “Don’t anyone move.” Mason warned. “We need to do this JUST as a precaution.” He spoke as he stepped around behind Gannon, preparing to put some handcuffs on him.
    As Lana looked at him, Gannon appeared like he was getting ready to resist. That’s when she told him. “It’s okay. Let it ride for now. I want to hear what they have to say.”
    Grudgingly, Gannon let himself get handcuffed. Lana could see they were fairly flimsy metal cuffs as Mason stepped back in front of the two Marines. He then began speaking. “Now, I need to ask you some questions.” Then he demanded, “what are you doing on Fallon? I have been informed that you had a shuttle over there, and you put something on the north and south poles. What are they?”
    As much as Lana was surprised that he knew about the Probes, to her, it didn’t matter. She sighed, deeply. “Those are just a couple of Observation Probes...” she frowned, “so we can keep an eye on this system in case that Chaos warship comes back, or others show up.”
    He didn’t say anything...
    “Listen, there are many other colonized planets and they need to know when and where Chaos ships appear.” Lana explained, then stepped forward, trying to be rational. “those Probes are not there to spy--”
    When it looked like Lana was going to take another step, Dora immediately intercepted her, then pushed her so she fell backwards into the stool, against the wall, then onto the floor.
    That’s when, Mason had to say, “Dora...ease off, okay?”
    But, Gannon was mad, the muscles in his arms flexing strongly, his face red. Then, with a pop, the handcuffs broke apart!
    The first thing the big Marine did was to take the shotgun away from the man beside him, throwing him to the floor in the process as Mason stepped back, shocked and frightened. When Dora stepped forward to reach for the shotgun, Gannon pushed her down, not being gentle about it after what she did to Lana; the big woman landed with a crash breaking the window.
    ******
    The situation was under control by the time the first Marine had arrived from the shuttle, all of them being alerted by the breaking window.
    The three colonists were not cuffed. They were told to sit down on the sofa in the front room of the house while Apothecary Ramos checked them out, finding them uninjured. It was time for Lana to ask the questions now.
    However, Mason spoke first, angry. “So the Marines have come to take over.”
    Lana got mad, shouting, pointing at Dora. “It was Brunhilda over there that pushed me down. Or is that how you greet people when they come to your planet and try to help you?”
    Before Lana had a chance to say anything more, Major Taliaferro was online, wanting to speak to Mason. Lana held the video of him so the three colonists could see. He had already been informed about what had happened.
    He looked calm at first, then became angry. “You asked my Marines to come to your location, which they did, unarmed, just like you said. We acted totally in good faith--then you pull a gun on us!” Lana knew Taliaferro, and to her it was obvious he was putting on an act. He got angry and slapped his hand on his table, then came to a decision. “Okay, LaFong...inform Dion that we’re leaving...let them fend for themselves.”
    “Dion is still in orbit.” Lana joined his act. “We can pack up and be off this planet in less than fifteen minutes.” She looked at Mason. “Goodby!” Then at the members of her team. “Load your gear back on the shuttle--we’re out of here.”
    At that point Mason began saying he was sorry, begging them to stay. As he carried on, it was obvious something bad was happening and they needed help. Eventually, Lana placed her com phone on the coffee table facing the three colonists, where Major Taliaferro sat looking at them. She spoke. “It’s not up to me anymore, bozo. My Major just ordered me to leave. Goodby and good luck.” She left the room.
    ******
    By the time Major Taliaferro was done speaking with the three colonists, they were willing to do anything. As for the reason, their problem, as it were, he had to get authorization from someone else to release that information; he was allowed to make a call.
    Soon, the Major was talking to someone calling himself, the Governor, a man in his late middle age.
    When the Governor was informed about what happened, he seemed more upset with himself, at the poor judgement he had used selecting the people he’d put in charge. However, he did have to tell the Major, he was not happy having two Probes that were not under his control on a nearby planet. But, for now, he would accept it.
    Gradually, the Governor explained what had happened: “We are not a heavily armed colony. All we have are a few civilian weapons which we obtained in trade. Our sole means of defense is like this.” He showed a picture of a spaceship, obviously a warship, but one that had some kind of skulls all over it. “When we determined this spaceship to be a possible threat, we employed our only defense. Hidden near each of our towns are underground bunkers, places all of our people can live for an extended period of time--undetected.” He smiled proudly. “When you guys made orbit around our colony, did you detect any people? All you found was a cleverly-disguised, abandoned, colony, right?”
    For several seconds no one spoke...
    Then Lana had to mention, complimenting. “That’s really great. You guys did a good job at that.”
    The Governor seemed very happy at the complement. “Thank you.” He looked at Lana. “I’m really sorry about what happened.” His voice sounded genuine. “Is everyone okay?”
    “Yes, of course. I’m just glad we’re able to start communicating.” Since, technically, she was in charge of the rescue operation, she decided to ask, “when are your colonists due to come out of hiding?”
    It seemed like the Governor didn’t want to answer, but had to. “Well...you see, that’s our problem. I’m located in over here in Bunker 1, next to Gravel.”
    Lana had memorized the village names, and knew where it was, locating it as one of the villages north of the coastal area, in the valley between two rows of long volcanic hills, on the west side.
    The Governor continued. “The problem is...we can’t get out. The bunkers are built sort of like underground living complexes, two levels. My group is on the lower level, and we can’t get up to the next level; we’re completely sealed off. And we can’t reach them by phone. No one answers.” He sighed miserably. “And even worse is that we can’t reach the other bunkers. No one answers there either.” All of a sudden he became very stressed. “I...I’m REALLY worried. God, I’m being to think they’re all dead.”
    Lana tried smiling. “Well, at least you can talk to us, and that’s a start.”
    “So, you’re going to help?” The Governor needed to know.
    “Yes, of course, we’ll help.” Lana tried to sound comforting. “But, I’m going to need to talk to someone that knows your Colony very well. And I’ll need to know where all your bunkers are located.”
    “Mason can help you with that.” The Governor seemed sure.
    But, Lana looked doubtful.
    Mason was still on the sofa, but close enough to hear the conversation. When the Governor saw doubt in Lana’s eyes, he began shouting. “LISTEN TO ME, MASON! I’m ordering you guys to give these Marines every damn bit of your cooperation they want...DO YOU HEAR ME?”
    “Yes, sir...yes, sir.” Mason responded like a private that had just been chewed out by a drill sergeant. “I’m sorry. When you told me about how worried you were about those probes on Fallon, I just thought--”
    “Well, those don’t matter anymore.” The Governor continued. “If we find all our people dead inside their bunkers, then a couple probes will be the least of our troubles.” He sighed, deeply. “Give these Marines everything they want. Right now, they’re our only hope.”
    “Okay, everyone settle down.” Major Taliaferro had been listening. “Governor, let’s have a nice long talk. Let Officer LaFong do her job. She’s very good at it.”
    The Governor and Taliaferro went offline to have their own conversation. LaFong turned to talk to Mason and his group. “Okay, we’re all squared away as to what do to, right?”
    “Yes, sir...uh, ma’am.” Mason tried to answer formally.
    “You can call me, Lana.” She pointed at the man sitting between Mason and Dora. “What’s your name?”
    He pointed at himself as if to say, “me?”
    Mason answered for him. “He’s goes by the name Beam. Beam Allen.”
    “Okay.” Lana continued. “Normally, when I’m given a mission like this one, I would’ve had time to study the primary flora and fauna. Are there any dangerous animals or plants that I should know of?”
    Mason and Beam shook their heads no, then looked at Dora. She answered, “I have a book in my bedroom up stairs.”
    Lana nodded. “As of now, I want you guys to feel free to get up and move around. You’re not under arrest or anything.” Earlier, Sergeant Dakota had checked the three out for WARP Worms, and were cleared. “Dora, go on upstairs and get that book.”
    As she started to rise, Lana thanked her. Then she asked Mason, “what can you tell me about these bunkers?”
    Mason began thinking, wondering how to answer.
    “How are they built? What do they look like inside? How do people get in and out?” She tried to be a little more specific.
    “They are built in two levels. Both are the same and are connected by two sets of stairs. Each level is made up mostly of small bedrooms for the colonists to live in. The rest of the space is allocated to restrooms, showers, dinning rooms, recreation, food storage and preparation, hydroponics, hydraulics, air filtration...” He sighed. “Stuff like that.”
    “Hydraulics?” Lana wondered.
    “Well, we can’t very well use electrical turbines or generators. Those can be detected.”
    She smiled. “I’m impressed, again.” Then she asked, “how do we find these bunkers?”
    He thought a little longer, then explained. “Well, there’s a cave that leads to the first door. But, it’s very to hard to find the cave. And once inside, the door is covered up with dirt. You’ll have to dig. The bunkers are made so the colonists can get out much easier than people can get in.”
    Lana thought a second, then asked, “you said, the ‘first’ door? What’s that?”
    “The first door leads to an empty room, like a big vault.” Mason explained the best he could, then repeated, “again...it’s designed for the people to get out, not in.”
    “Well, how did they get in, in the first place?”
    “When no one’s inside, they’re open.”
    “So, once they’re in and the bunker is closed behind them, there’s no way for anyone to get in...in case they needed rescuing?” Lana asked, surprised.
    “Not really.” Mason responded. “I mean, if there is a way in, I don’t know it.”
    “Once we find this cave, and/or this room, is there’s a way to call inside the bunker?”
    He sighed, again. “Yes...but, we’ve been calling using our phones. We have a full com set inside the house that supposed to be linked to all the bunkers. But, either way, no one answers. The only person we’ve been able to talk to is the Governor. And he called us using a special phone line linked directly to this house by cable wire.”
    “No, I mean, is there an intercom, some way to talk to the people inside if we were inside this room?”
    He shook his head, no.
    Lana frowned, frustrated. “It seems you guys have dug quite a set of tombs for yourselves.” She thought again, then asked. “What are the walls to these bunkers made of?”
    “I was told they were not made of any artificial materials. The room that the first door leads do is composed of a very hard porcelain, as are the interior walls. Other than that, the bulk of the walls are simply earth permeated with a type of resin that hardens over time.” He frowned back, getting upset. “Why? You can’t blast your way in! You might destroy the whole bunker. They’re designed to hide in, not to withstand explosives--”
    “Settle down. It’s okay. We’re not going to use explosives.” When it looked like he had relaxed, she continued. “I brought some meltaguns and a multi-melta, with me. Those won’t blow anything up, but they might allow us to put holes in the walls.”
    Mason didn’t look happy, his sigh show it.
    Lana noticed it, and clarified, “...but, I’m not going to do that unless I have the complete authorization of your Governor, okay?”
    He smiled, relieved.
    “Actually, I’m quite impressed. By making the bunkers out of the materials you did, even if orbital scans found them, they’d just appear like natural caverns. Very nice.” She thought a second, then asked, “how long can your people live inside those bunkers?”
    “They can live for years.” Mason was proud to say.
    “I think the first thing we should do is find the nearest bunker.” Lana brought up a map of the colony on her oPOD. She showed it to Mason, pointing out one of the towns, one that was about ten kilometers south of where they were now. She asked, “this village here?”
    “Pumice Springs.” He told her the name.
    She thought a second, then asked looking at her oPOD. “I just had the name, Pumice.”
    “They renamed it when they built a SPA there.”
    She nodded her understanding, then asked, “if we went down there, do you think you could find that cave?”
    “I don’t know.” He shook his head...then mentioned eagerly, “I can find the one the Governor is in.”
    Just then Dora came up and handed Lana her book on Tiberia’s animal life. She looked at Mason and asked if there was anything for her to do. Mason told her, “not at the moment,” so she went back upstairs. As she did, Mason mentioned she was probably tired, and maybe even a little grumpy, since she usually took the night shift.
    Lana stood thinking for awhile. When Ramcke came up to her and asked where her headquarters would be, she told him the same room that had the Colony com. Mason pointed it out, the living room. He also watched as Bull brought in her belt with two holsters holding her 9.1s, her VSS sniper rifle, and Scout bolter, which she instructed to be put in the HQ room.
    With Bull and Gannon standing next to her, she held out her oPOD with a map of the area and instructed them to prepare a little defensive position on the arm of a volcanic hill about five hundred meters to the south of their present location, right where the road crossed over. Wear their battle suits with Mk. 2 heavy bolters.
    Mason overheard, then asked, “are you expecting an attack...in case that warship comes back?”
    She looked at him and began explaining. “Not really. But, listen. If that warship comes back, I want all three of your team to go back into hiding--”
    “We have a place to hide right here under this house.” He informed, gladly.
    “Good.” She continued. “If you have to go down there, inform your Governor that we would be returning to our shuttle and going back out into space--”
    “You mean you would leave us?” He seemed shocked.
    “No.” She assured. “It would be better if we hid in space. Our shuttles have stealth.” She became serious. “If that spaceship stays here, and it’s determined it’s a Chaos warship, we’ll contact our General. He’ll send three destroyers here to attack it. But, they won’t arrive for six days. So we would all have to wait. There would be no way we can fight a warship on our own. What you did was the best thing: hide...make it look like no one’s here. But...I don’t expect that ship to come back.” Then she smiled, adding, “you guys did a good job, hiding like you did.”
    He couldn’t quite managed a smile back until he had gotten something off his mind. “I’m...I’m really sorry for what we did when you guys got here. We didn’t know what to do. At first we thought you were from that first spaceship. Then the Governor tells me to find out why there’s a shuttle on Fallon. I thought you were putting weapons there--”
    Lana smiled. “That’s behind us now. Let’s move on.”
    He finally smiled back.
    Once Officer LaFong’s HQ was prepared and ready, it was time to go out into the Colony and take a look around. Inside the shuttle, she had two Space Marine Scout bikes, which had been unloaded and were ready. Ramcke and Dakota would use the shuttle to take a closer look at the Colony from the air. Major Taliaferro was inside the HQ virtually, present via a large video screen and a couple cameras, along with Lieutenant Ramos, who would be there physically, of course. Mason moved himself to a couch in the HQ, available in case Lana needed to speak to him. Also, the Governor remained online, feeling much more hopeful about the success of the Marines, and ready to answer any question Mason didn’t know.
    Lana had gone outside, where she and Burns began getting the Scout bikes ready to ride.
 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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